Game review: Horizon Zero Dawn

For many years now I’ve lamented that there have been very few major game releases that focus on (or even include) dinosaurs. Imagine then, my excitement when Horizon Zero Dawn was announced showcasing not just dinosaurs, but giant metal ones looking every bit as awe-inspiring as the first time the T-Rex reared his head in Jurassic park…

I’ll start with a brief description of what the game actually is: Horizon Zero Dawn is a third person, open world game that follows the story of a young woman named Aloy who, (for unknown reasons) is outcast from her tribe of the Nora and is left to survive with the patriarchal figure Rost. The story starts with this initial story and a few hours in, the plot is enhanced as you’re released into a world after technology has failed. Tribes refer to modern day society as the “old ones,” and the landscape contains a myriad of mechanical marvels roaming the plains, as well as decrepit modern day ruins and natural splendour as far as the eye can see.

Then, as this new world opens up to you, it’s time to pull out your trusty bow and arrow and start shooting every single thing you see directly in the face… or not. As you’ll learn as you progress through the metal savanna is that each beast you come up against has a specific weakness that you can use to your advantage. A lot of the time a lovely face shot is nowhere near as devastating as a flaming arrow to a power canister mounted on the back of your target. This ability to stalk and work out exactly the best way of taking out your prey takes what could have been a pretty standard run and gun affair and takes it to a tactical hunt, giving you a sense of accomplishment and wonder every time you manage to survive and loot your fallen adversary.

Combat-wise you’ll start with a trusty bow, arrow and spear, but as you progress you’ll gain new weapons like tripwires, ropecasters, a thing that fires loads of arrows, slingshots and better bows. The way these new weapons change combat is vast and the first time you set down an explosive tripwire and lure a Thunderjaw into it, or tie down a Glinthawk with the ropecaster before blasting it in the freezer sack till it explodes is amazing and the amount of depth the combat gains from multiple weapons and play styles makes each encounter as exciting as the last.

The way you learn about an enemy’s weakness is down to your ‘Focus’, a device you collect early in the story that allows you to communicate with machines and read data along the journey. This is a massive help later on when you come across multiple enemies. You have the ability to Tag each one, see their movements through walls and plan your exploration. It also gives you information about anything of interest in the world.

The graphics in this game are insane; utilising the ‘Decima’ engine, it showcases how good games can look. The mixture of sprawling foliage and giant mechanical structures hidden just over the horizon is a beautiful juxtaposition, and each individual panel on the bodies of the robosaurs perfectly reflect light, texture and sheen, just like real materials would. On top of the fantastic graphics, the game also runs a great frame-rate. Even though it’s locked at 30fps (not too impressive), it’s stable and one of the few open world games that isn’t hindered from any slowdown when a big mecha fight breaks out.

For me personally, the idea of open world gaming was getting old, and I was starting to get really sick of it. However, from the moment I started playing Horizon I was instantly hooked… despite the clichés, because unlike a lot of other games each new encounter always feels new and exciting.

I’m a big fan of Horizon Zero Dawn, I’ve finally found an open world game that is not only complete (no micro-transactions or DLC at release), but that has also convinced me that spending the hours necessary to finish it, will be well worth the effort! For more information on how to make the best of your gaming set up, why not pop into one of our stores today.

Author: Hal, Plymouth store